Jane Kaczmarek introduces four tales about taking things to extremes.

You don’t often see the words “dystopian” and “hilarious” in the same sentence, but it’s the only way to describe Jack Handey’s comic take on a post-nuclear America–there are cannibals out there, and you can’t even count on the mail.  Handey is a comic writer and former script writer for Saturday Night Live, and contributor to The New Yorker. He’s best known for his short humorous commentaries, including “Deep Thoughts,” “Fuzzy Memories,” and “My Big Thick Novel.” These are often described as “surrealistic,” a term that also aptly applies to “Apocalypse.”

Kaczmarek read this tale at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.  She’s familiar to audiences for her award-winning work on the series “Malcolm in the Middle.” Other television credits include “The Big Bang Theory” and “Whitney.”  Her stage appearances include “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” at the Geffen Playhouse, David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” Tom Holloway’s “And No More Shall We Part,” and Jen Silverman’s “The Roommate,” both at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  She also appeared as The Stage Manager in Pasadena Playhouse and Deaf West Theatre’s production of “Our Town.”

 Next, in Bret Anthony Johnston’s “Encounters with Unexpected Animals,” a father is disturbed by his teenaged son’s slatternly girlfriend.  Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of the novel Remember Me Like This, as well as the story collection Corpus Christi: Stories.   His work appears in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The Paris Review, Glimmer Train Stories, The Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. Reader Kirsten Vangsness is  best known as Penelope Garcia on the television drama “Criminal Minds.”  She is also the executive producer and star of the feature film “Kill Me Deadly” and she regularly performs her one-person show “Mess” around Los Angeles.  Vangsness was nominated for the LA Weekly best playwright of the year for her play “Potential Space.”

The third on this program is by the late British writer Roald Dahl.  Dahl was a prolific author of fantastical fiction for children, including James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, and Fantastic Mr Fox.   In “The Wish,” an over-imaginative young boy sets himself an impossible task.

Reader Pablo Schreiber had a featured role on the television series “The Wire” and  “Weeds,” “Law & Order SVU”  and “The Good Wife.” Stage work includes “Desire Under the Elms,” “Awake and Sing!” “Reasons to be Pretty,” and “Julius Caesar.”

 Our final story is by the late playwright and actor Sam Shepard, whose many award-winning works include “Buried Child,” “True West,” and “The Curse of the Starving Class.”  On film he appeared in “Days of Heaven,” “The Right Stuff,” and “Baby Boom,” among others.  In “Indianapolis (Highway 74)” a solitary man encounters an old flame at a remote hotel.  Reader Bryan Cranston was the beloved and goofy Dad on “Malcolm in the Middle,” and then went on to create the chilling character Walter White in the series “Breaking Bad.”  Stage work includes his Tony Award-winning performance as Lyndon B. Johnson in “All the Way.”  The play was later adapted as a television series.  Cranston’s film appearances include “Trumbo,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Argo,” and “Godzilla.”

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